Francistown — Some Francistown shop owners and hawkers who ply their trade on Haskins Street, nicknamed "Bulawayo street", are bearing the brunt of the imposition of lockdown in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
The lockdown, meant to curb rising cases of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, stopped cross border traders from travelling to Botswana and injecting revenue into Francistown businesses.
Before the lockdown, Bulawayo Street would on any given day be abuzz with Zimbabwean men and women buying goods either to sell or for personal use.
Currently, the street has become a shadow of itself with just a few cross border traders which has impacted negatively on local businesses.
Speaking in an interview with BOPA recently, a member of Botswana Bus Truckers and Taxi Association, Mr John Tshamba reminisced about the good old days before lockdown when cargo transporters thrived on cross border trade.
"The lockdown has prevented majority of our clients in Zimbabwe from entering Botswana to buy goods and secure freight services as was the case before," he said.
The development, he said, had resulted in him not being able to pay his monthly bills.
Mr Tshamba however acknowledged government's intervention in allowing local cargo transporters to swap trailers with drivers in the neighbouring countries to facilitate delivery of goods.
Mr Tshamba said to keep the business going, his Zimbabwe and Zambia clients placed orders and he bought goods for them locally which he then delivered at the border post.
For his part, shop manager Mr Zhang Xiong, said sales had been affected by the lockdown in Zimbabwe.
Usually during the month of January, there was not much business from local customers but they only got boosted by cross border traders who bought in bulk, he said.
Mr Zhang said with the restriction of movement and the resultant barring of cross border traders, sales had significantly dropped.
Businesswoman Ms Tapiwa Meshack, a single parent and mother of two, who has been running a catering business for almost nine years, said things had become really difficult.
Empty "Bulawayo Street", she said, meant loss of business.
"My lunch meals go for P25 and normally cross border traders appreciate my food and buy at the given price and that boosts my business but the challenge with local customers is that they always want to negotiate the given price and this affects the business," she said.
She nonetheless said tough as the situation was, she would weather the storm with the hope that Zimbabwe would soon reopen its borders.
Another street vendor, Ms Game Game (not real name) also said she had partnered with cross border traders so much that they had become her most reliable customers.
She said since the lockdown, business had become slow as local customers preferred buying from big retailers as opposed to street vendors.
Although the lockdown in Zimbabwe had negatively affected her business, Ms Game appreciated the fact that such restrictions were meant to fight COVID-19.
She encouraged other Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) not to despair during this challenging time but to solider on.BOPA